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Career Mistakes

Not stepping up when the leader falters

I occasionally meet up with a group of people who taught together in a secondary that has now closed. They always bring up the head who opted for a quiet life by giving everyone - staff, parents, pupils - whatever answer he thought would keep them happy. It was an abdication of leadership by a person who was clearly not well (he died in post) and it bred a gradually intensifying air of confusion and resentment. Senior and middle leaders retreated into their bunkers, staff morale broke down, discipline nosedived. The big mistake, however, was that senior staff did not try to plug the leadership gap for the sake of staff and pupils.

What is the right thing to do?

If a head, or any other teacher in leadership, is clearly not up to the job, there is nothing to be gained by whispering and joking about the person, and indulging in back-covering. What is needed is action, supportive at first: "What can we do to help? We're here if you need us."

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